A different Bartok from Chicago
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 12/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The CSO has made two famous recordings of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, an early LIving Stereo version under Reiner (RCA) and a later sonic blockbuster under Solti (Decca). Both conductors were Hungarian, but Reiner's cool, almost clinical detachment couldn't have been further from Solti's volcanic harum-scarum. Now we have a third view from Levine, whose Bartok is warm, human, lyrical. He molds enigmatic lines in the first two movements as tenderly songful, touching on eerie notes for variety, while never exploiting the orchestral writing for dazzle and flash.
The result is foreign to the usual approach to Bartok as a jagged modernist, and many listeners may object. Levine's deciison to underplay the finale is a mistake, depriving us of the thrill ride that the composer clearly intended, and the satiric jibes at Shostakovich in the Intermezzo are too polite. But it's so refreshing to hear this work played for actual meaning that I could forgive a lot, and the coupling--an amazingly precise, vigorous Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celestra--is a triumph, the most compelling recording of this great work I've ever heard. Four stars for the Concerto, five for the MFSPC."
Bartok's Concerto Finally Comes to Life
Music Is Everything | Colorado Springs, CO USA | 04/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've heard so many recordings of Bartok's "Concerto for Orchestra," but keep returning to this one. An excellent performance by the Chicago Symphony is only part of the equation. Levine finds lyricism, humor, darkness and light where other conductors just put the notes together. This is a "Concerto for Orchestra" that captures Bartok's spirit, not just his genius. A fine performance of the "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta" rounds out the disc. With thousands of CDs in my collection, I consider this one my best purchases."